Some of you will have dropped in today to read an interview with Daniela Tasca York, the winner of BBC 2’s The Great Interior Design Challenge. Some of you will have no idea who she is, won’t have seen the programme and won’t really care less. Which is why you should know that this isn’t just an interview with the winner of a TV game show. It’s also a story about life. A story about the twists and turns that happen along this path and how things can work out for the best even when we don’t think they will. It is, if you like, a tale about that light at the end of the tunnel that we’re all searching for.
Daniela was 15 when she designed her first range of glasses. A couple of weeks work experience had turned into a commission and those glasses were sashaying down the catwalk while she was working for her GCSE’s. By the age of 22, she was head designer for a high end online fashion store working on their own label collection.
The cake was iced, as it were, when she fell in love with her partner, Calum, and got pregnant. Then, just when it seemed she was at the pinnacle of everything she could have hoped for, she was made redundant. Unemployed and pregnant, she persuaded Calum to let her do up their flat.
“I knew instinctively which walls to take down and how to make it flow better,” she says. “He was happy for me to do it and it took my mind away from not having a job.”
Once their son, Palmer, now four, was born, there was still no job on the horizon and the couple relocated to Ibiza where Daniela took up wedding photography and had another child, Bambi, two.
Two years later they were back in the UK where Daniela was once again at a loose, unemployed, end. “I was four years out of fashion so didn’t think I could go back to that. I didn’t want to do weddings any more. In Ibiza the brides are all gorgeous, the light is amazing and, crucially, people are happy to pay for your work.”
She spotted an advert for The Great Interior Design Challenge and filled it in. And the rest, as they say, is history.
During the nine episodes of the show, which has now firmly established itself as part of the BBC scheduling (let’s just hope they don’t lose it to another channel where it will surely get broken) it was immediately clear that Daniela had impressed judges Kelly Hoppen and Daniel Hopwood. Her style is simple and uncluttered with pale colours and clean lines. One wonders if she would have fared so well under the colour-loving Sophie Robinson.
Daniela herself seems unsure about winning. While obviously pleased and confident in her abilities, the clearly partisan nature of the Twitter audience – many of whom were openly disappointed that the other finalist Oliver Thomas came second – seems to have left her slightly bruised and she makes repeated mention of the country perhaps preferring him to her.
For what it’s worth I didn’t. While I loved the shots of Oliver’s house and he clearly has masses of talent, I was less convinced by what he did on the show. Still, it’s only telly and, for Daniela, the real work starts now. Daniel Hopwood has often said that the programme is no substitute for training, but should, instead, act as a launchpad; perhaps giving contestants the confidence to pursue a career in a field they may previously only have dreamt of. Certainly the three previous winners have gone on to great things and even contestants who have been knocked out in the early stages have carried on.
Launchpad or not, it’s certainly a baptism of fire. This year the contestants had to do two rooms in three days with a budget of £1000. They had to delegate, produce moodboards, which were harshly judged, make on the spot decisions and manage clients, treading a fine line between answering the brief while showing what they were capable of. And do it all on camera so there’s no swearing or screaming at builders which is what most of us do when we’re frustrated. All that and the ruddy upcycling challenge as well, which would definitely finish me off. I mean if you came up to me in the middle of a three day project handed me an old wooden barrel and told me to turn into something lovely I would still be sitting there now. Or I might be on remand having attacked you with it.
But the cameras have gone now and Daniela need only worry about new clients who are queuing up for her to work on their homes. She has done a few projects since the show finished filming – without being able to tell anyone who she was – and is now about to start work on a huge six bedroom house in north London, whose owner contacted her as soon as the show finished.
“I’m very excited about that – there’s a huge budget,” she says. “But I have some smaller jobs as well. Whatever happens I’m done with being an intern. I’m not working for free any more. I won’t charge megabucks because I’m still learning but I’m going to prove to Kelly and Dan that I was the right choice to win.”
So, it has taken her a while to get there with a couple of false starts along the way, but at 31 Daniela Tasca York has found her path and she’s sticking to it this time. So anyone else who wants to do something and daren’t try – give it a go people.
As for me – I think I might have my name writ large over my desk. I rather fancy that.